As I have proclaimed many times, "Sales is a noble profession" and I have never once regretted getting into the field. Most of the world does not share my opinion, however, and categorize salespeople as a necessary evil. I remember reading an editorial when the internet was in its infancy boldly forecasting that online purchasing would eliminate the need for pesky salespeople. I laughed then as I do now because I contend that they are needed more than ever.
The professional services industry still struggles with the buyer/seller relationship and suffers from the belief that their services should sell on their own merit. I was having dinner at a well-known Chicago steakhouse with a friend of mine last week when I overheard a conversation at the table next to me. Given the tables proximity, I was easily able to inconspicuously eavesdrop on the conversation taking place between two men who were discussing the results of their business day. Both were "sales engineers" who had a strong technical background in IT services and were thrust into their company's sales department. Their bosses, evidently, believed that by sprinkling technical jargon on their prospects, sales would easily be clinched. Their experiences that day proved their higher ups wrong as their respective prospects wanted to "think it over" even though each had made a 50 slide PowerPoint presentation! I listened closely to them debrief, which entailed more technical buzzwords that I could ever imagine! They erroneously concluded that since their prospects intently listened and asked no questions, it had to be a great sign! It wasn't; decisions were postponed in both cases.
Both sales engineers seemed to fully understand what the other shared, but I couldn't help wondering if their potential clients felt the same way. As they concluded their debriefing, they blamed the prospect for not realizing how extensively their services could have contributed to their companies' success. The final blow was this quote, "No one told me I would have to sell when I took this job". I started to chuckle which is when my friend nudged me, signaling me to kindly focus on our conversation.
So many times, I wanted to step in and offer some advice that may have allowed them to view the situation differently … but I didn't. I am happy, however, to share my thoughts with you in the hope that if you're in professional services, you will begin to perceive selling in a different light.
1. Products and services don't build relationships, people do. It doesn't matter what you're selling, if you haven't developed a strong relationship with prospects, make it a priority to do so.
2. Stop trying to convince prospects to buy and help them discover their own reason to do business with you. "Seek first to understand" before doing the reverse, it never works, because if you see the problem from their perspective, you will have a much better chance of applying your solution to their needs.
3. You should only be talking 30 percent of the time during your sales call. Ask better questions and you will have heightened success.
4. Prospects don't buy features and benefits! They buy the resolution of their PAIN that will directly correlate to their bottom line. If your product/service will not alleviate their PAIN and impact their bottom line, they will always give you a "think it over"! Always!
5. Stop making mega-slide presentations. If you can't present your case in eight slides, don't bother trying as they stop listening after the eighth slide. Make your presentation interactive and help them process how you can easily resolve their problem.
Professional services salespeople should learn not only how to professionally sell, but, also, value its benefits as highly as their expertise in and knowledge of their products/services. They work in harmony to assure selling is not only lucrative, but fulfilling. Go conquer your worlds.
• Bill Bartlett owns Corporate Strategies, A Sandler Training Center. firstname.lastname@example.org. Text "SalesTip" to 71813 to receive Bill's biweekly newsletter.